Wednesday 17 January 2018

15 Irish celebrities and influencers on their top books for summer reading

Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain
Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain
Mary Mitchell O'Connor
John Connolly
Anne-Marie Casey
Liz McManus
Barbara Dawson
Norah Casey
Claire Byrne
Keelin Shanley
Derry Clarke
Gerald Kean
Gay Byrne
Tara Flynn
Holly Carpenter
Michael Colgan

If you are looking for the best summer reading, look no further - we've asked some well-known personalities to give us their top recommendations for a good read. Compiled by Anna Coogan

Claire Byrne,  RTE presenter

Claire Byrne

A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power by Paul Fischer

Don't let the extremely long title put you off - it's an amazing read. It's the non-fiction account of the kidnapping by Kim Jong-Il of South Korea's most famous actress and her ex-husband, who happens to be South Korea's most successful director - as a film buff, Kim Jong-Il wanted North Korea to become a world leader in movie making.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This book powered its way up through the bestseller lists this year. It's a rollicking tale of a woman whose life is in tatters and her past is filled with murky holes that will be explained as the book progresses. It's an ideal holiday tome and one that you won't be able to put down.

Second Life by SJ Watson

I loved this author's first book, the creepy Before I Go to Sleep, so I was really looking forward to this one. It's not quite as good, and I had more or less figured out the ending before I got there. Having said that, it does roll along nicely and it has that ability to make you feel, as the main character's life unravels, that this could almost happen to anyone.

Holly Carpenter, model

Holly Carpenter

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

This novel is unputdownable. I read the last two chapters slowly to savour them. You might know Terry Hayes as a screenwriter who gave us Mad Max 2 and Dead Calm, but he's equally brilliant as a thriller writer - his two main characters, a high-ranking government agent and a jihadist terrorist, had me gripped.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

A must read. I'm glad I got to read it before the movie came out but I think it would still be enjoyable for someone who has seen the movie. I never knew what to expect with each new chapter. A wife goes missing and the husband becomes the main suspect, but in the end, could this be too obvious?

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

It has a similar vibe to Gone Girl. It's the kind of book that almost messes with your head because I found myself unsure of which characters to trust and I kept second guessing myself. A woman sees the same couple having breakfast every morning as she's on her way into work, and when the woman goes missing, she begins to wonder if she has seen anything which might explain where or why the woman has gone. I read it in two days!

Keelin Shanley, RTE broadcaster

Keelin Shanley

The Green Road by Anne Enright

From the very first page I was captivated by this novel. It's the story of a family that spans 25 years taking in issues as varied as emigration, homosexuality, cancer, all against the back drop of the inner mechanics of the family. The really key thing for me about Anne Enright's books is that they are that great combination of being thoughtful, provocative and also gripping.

Villa America by Liza Klaussmann

Tender Is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald is one of my all time favourite novels. Fitzgerald dedicated the novel to Gerald and Sara Murphy who had a home on the French Riviera and played host to many of the famous artists of their era - Ernest Hemmingway, Picasso and Scott Fitzgerald himself along with his wife Zelda. Many believe the central characters of Tender Is the Night, Dick and Nicole Diver, are based on the lives of the Murphys. Klaussmann's novel explores the Murphys and adds so much for any fan of Fitzgerald's and Tender Is the Night.

The Village Effect by Susan Pinker.

This is a fascinating study by psychologist Susan Pinker of the impact of human contact on longevity and health. She studies one village in Italy where it is the norm to live to at least 100 and examines the reasons for it. She reports studies that now assert that loneliness is one of the primary global public health threats and that measures as simple as eating with friends can add as many years to your life as giving up smoking.

Tara Flynn, comedian

Tara Flynn

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

I love Lisa McInerney's writing, and her debut novel The Glorious Heresies is, in fact, glorious. I fell in love instantly with the characters, and ended up in the underbelly of Cork city, as both characters and the country struggled to escape from past crimes.

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

This is a gripping Young Adult novel which look at how society's attitudes towards young women today might pan out in a dystopian future. It may be YA, but I bought a copy for my mum and she loved it too.

The Daughterhood by Natasha Fennell and Róisín Ingle

A really special book. It's a heart-warming and brilliant document of real family lives.

Liz McManus, former Labour TD and novelist

Liz McManus

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

A rollercoaster of a book. At times his exploration of the brutality of war took my breath away. At other times, his writing is so intimate and delicate that I felt like an intruder into the private world of his characters.

Vivid Faces by Roy Foster

As we approach the anniversary year 2016, this is a must for anyone even vaguely interested in the Rising. Foster writes brilliantly about the gallery of revolutionaries, intellectuals, writers, women suffragists and eccentrics who formed the 1916 generation and who were largely swallowed up in the tsunami of reaction that followed. We'll not see their likes again.

How Many Miles To Babylon by Jennifer Johnston

Since it is also the time of commemoration of World War 1, I recommend Jennifer Johnston's How Many Miles To Babylon. Having read this book forty years ago, I was hesitant to read it again in case it failed the test of time. I needn't have worried: the hauntingly fresh nature of her writing hasn't dimmed one iota.

Gerald Kean, lawyer

Gerald Kean

Legacy of Ashes - The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner.

I love anything about the world of espionage and I found this a really absorbing book about the CIA and how they operate.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The thriller by the American writer Gillian Flynn which was made into a film with Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck. I couldn't put it down, I was riveted by it.

Bringing Down the Banking System, Lessons from Iceland, by Gudrun Johnsen

This held my interest. I was never in favour of our blanket banking guarantee so I'm very interested in how other countries dealt with problems in their systems. This is all about Iceland's problems and gives a real insight into how another country dealt with its problems and the consequences of their choices.

Barbara Dawson, director of the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane

Barbara Dawson

Dracula by Bram Stoker

I read this for the first time recently and was absolutely captivated by the vampire goings on stretching from London to Transylvania.

Catherine de Medici by Leonie Frieda

Leonie Frieda's biography, was also a compulsive read. What an extraordinary woman, the epicentre of a world of political and social intrigues in 16th century Europe.

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

A strange and fascinating portrait of another exceptional woman, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and brings alive an alternative account of her reaction to her son's mission and the dangerous times they lived in.

Anne-Marie Casey, playwright and author

Anne-Marie Casey

Lillian On Life by Alison Jean Lester

Outline by Rachel Cusk

Two new novels I read and loved this year are Lillian On Life, an absolute gem of a debut novel about a women looking back on her life and loves in New York. If you like Mad Men on the TV or novels like The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe (which is well worth throwing in the suitcase too!) this is for you - and the other is Outline by Rachel Cusk which is about a woman teaching a creative writing course in Athens. I always find the uninterrupted hours of a holiday perfect to reread a classic - this year I'll be bringing Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert with me.

Michael Colgan, artistic director of the Gate Theatre

Michael Colgan

Villa America by Liza Klaussmann

"A time when young liquor took the place of young blood and with a whoop the orgy began," so wrote Scott Fitzgerald in The Jazz Age, writing of the Lost Generation, a people and a time perfectly evoked in Liza Klaussmann's new novel Villa America, the home in Cap d'Antibes of Sara and Gerald Murphy where they lavishly entertained the beautiful and the damned. Hemmingway, Picasso, the Fitzgeralds, they are all here, the exotic yet tormented generation drinking, dancing, betraying and obliviously spinning out of control. A dazzling new novel and a great summer read.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

I also greatly enjoyed, and yet was deeply disturbed by Karen Joy Fowler's novel of an extraordinary fractured family life in We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Cleverly structured and beautifully written, I found it compelling, deeply moving, and, at times surprisingly funny. A truly original story, it asks profound moral questions while keeping you turning the pages, and then hits you with a bang.

The Gigli Concert by Tom Murphy is currently showing at the Gate.

Derry Clarke, owner L'Ecrivain

Derry Clarke

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

Not Kate Moss the model - but author of the bestseller Labyrinth - The Winter Ghosts is a must read for anyone interested in World War I. You'll read it in one sitting as it is so hard to put down. Freddie lost his brother, who was also his own personal hero in World War 1, and has always wanted answers, and a parchment in old French might hold some truths.

The Sea Takes No Prisoners by Peter Clutterbuck

A story of the sea in an open dinghy, this was originally the author's private project, but he decided to share with the rest of us. Being a sailor myself, I really enjoyed this book which is an account of a series of bold, not to say extremely dangerous voyages that Peter Clutterbuck undertook as a teenager in the late 1960s in an open Wayfarer sailing dinghy. He had not a cabin, keel or even an engine, but braved the English Channel, the open Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay.

The Artist on the Island by Peter Hogan

I loved Peter Hogan's new novel which was a follow up to his book The Log of the Molly B, another book I enjoyed. This one is about artist Peter living and painting his story on Achillbeg. It's the journal he wrote over the winter, and for me it was a reminder of simpler times where life went at a much slower pace. Peter lived on his own without modern conveniences, and filled the long evenings writing his journal after having painted all day.

Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain, mathematician and TV presenter

Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson

Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton

I have finally started to read Bill Bryson's One Summer: America 1927 and am enjoying it. I'm usually a fiction reader but a friend recommended it to me after I finished The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin, a novel about Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne and which is a great little book and easy to recommend. I plan to go back and read the last couple of chapters of Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices to get ready for the American presidential campaign. I'll probably also return to one of my 'go-to' fiction authors -Margaret Atwood, Clive Barker or Daphne du Maurier - over the summer. I've been meaning to return to my sci-fi short stories all year so my well-thumbed Of Time and Stars by Arthur C Clarke will make a few appearances over the summer.

Mary Mitchell O'Connor TD

Mary Mitchell O'Connor

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Although its been around for a couple of years now, I always find myself leafing back through it as there are some great motivational quotes in it. It is a great, uplifting and empowering read and I would urge any woman to read it.

The Kosovo Indictment by Michael O'Reilly

This book focuses on Kosovo's War of Independence and the war crimes committed, especially the highly contested trial of former Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj. This book is interesting because one can make connections to the hardships and struggles that both Kosovo and Ireland endured during their fight for independence.

Gay Byrne, broadcaster

Gay Byrne

The Diary of Mary Travers by Eibhear Walshe

It's the story of a young girl who had an affair with Oscar Wilde's father Professor William Wilde - the Wildes lived in No 1 Merrion Square - and the affair was going on at the same time as Oscar was on trial in London for his gay relationship with the Marquess of Queensberry's son. I found it very pertinent to the times we're in now.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

It's about the Australian POWs who were forced by the Japanese to build the bridge over the River Kwai and the torture and brutality they suffered at the hands of the Japanese and the levels of suffering they endured. It's one of the greatest pieces of writing I've read in the last five years.

The Baroness: The Search for Nica, the Rebellious Rothschild and Jazz's Secret Muse, by Hannah Rothschild

As you know the Rothschilds are richer than god and Hannah Rothschild tells the story of her aunt who was married and had a family of five children yet when she heard a record on the radio, she instantly left her family to go off with the man who was performing. And dedicated her entire life to him. It was Thelonius Monk, a very strange and unusual, for the time, performer. He was married and he and his wife were black and he was also a drug addict and there's no suggestion that there was an affair but, yes, the Baroness dedicated her life to him. And in the course of that she met all the jazz greats and she was very popular with them, probably because she bought them all drinks but anyway it's a great read.

Norah Casey, broadcaster and publisher

Norah Casey

Fashion on the Ration by Julie Summers

Irish Tatler magazine celebrates 125 years this year and we have been scouring the archives for our anniversary issue, so I was drawn to this fascinating book about the ingenuity of women in the fashion-starved era of the Second World War. Clothes rationing meant every button mattered and mending and recycling became the norm for this style conscious generation of women.

The Price of Salt (aka Carol) by Patricia Highsmith

Heading into the referendum for marriage equality I found myself re-reading this book about a passionate lesbian love affair which was way ahead of its time when first published in 1952. More recently, the film about the book, Carol, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. It's a searingly honest portrayal of the tumultuous love affair sparked after a chance meeting of two women - Carol who worked at a department store and Therese a suburban housewife going through a divorce.

How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery by Kevin Ashton

I have been at the helm of creative teams for most of my life and have lived by the mantra that innovation should be a state of mind…much easier said than done. So I loved the promise of this book by the man, Kevin Ashton, who coined the phrase "the Internet of Things". And it lives up to the promise. You will be leaping off the chair with boundless energy and ideas by half way through - he makes being a genius a realistic goal for everyone.

John Connolly, crime writer

John Connolly

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

There's nothing like sitting by a swimming pool reading about the inevitable disintegration of the human body. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory should be depressing but isn't, although sections of it require a strong stomach. (I'm really not any happier for having learned what a trocar does.) Doughty, a young American mortician, concludes that to enjoy life we have to recognise that it's all going to come to an end some day, and we shouldn't be overly sentimental about what happens to our bodies afterwards.

The Unfortunate Fursey by Mervyn Walls

A reissue of an Irish novel from the 1940s about a medieval monk whose stammer prevents him from properly performing the ritual of exorcism at the monastery of Clonmacnoise, unleashing all kinds of unpleasant characters on his little world. Well done Dublin's Swan River Press.

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